In October 1899 the War Office decided to make use of steam transport in a supporting role to animal transport and a new organisation was created with Col. J.L.B. Templer (at the time Superintendent of the Balloon Factory at Aldershot) as Director of Steam Road Transport.
On 1 November 1899 a new Royal Engineers company, the 45th Coy, was authorised specifically to operate steam road transport in South Africa.
On 15/16 November 1899 engines, supplies and members of Steam Road Transport sailed for South Africa, followed on 5 December by Col Templer, his deputy Capt. Gardiner, Mr H.L. Templer (relative??), 11 artificers and 9 more traction engines. The ship, SS Denton Grange ran aground at Las Palmas and the men and cargo only reached South Africa late in January 1900.
From the Bendigo Advertiser, 18 December 1899
Henry Lethbridge Templer was born in Armagh, Ireland in 1871 and served a mechanical engineering apprenticeship in London.
Who's Who (South Africa) entries between 1908 and 1913 stated:
“Came to C.C. 1900 as Chief Engnr. of H.M. Steam Road Transport and was in charge of traction engines during the Boer War”. This is in line with his MID in the LG of 16 April 1901 'Chief Engineer H L Templar, for work with traction engines'.
Roberts commented in the same despatch “…. where coal and water were readily obtainable, the engines proved a valuable adjunct to animal draught….” and a prophetic wish “...if an efficient oil motor could be substituted for the steam motor, as in that case no water would be wanted, while the coal would be replaced by a more portable and concentrated description of fuel.”
Colonel Templer and his steam sapper
Pictures courtesy of City Coins
In September 1915 Templer joined the Army Service Corps in the UK as a Captain, with promotion to Major in February 1916. After serving as O/C of the MT (Motor Transport) Depot, Camberwell, he was O/C Base MT Depot in East Africa (March 1916-Aug 1917) and was MiD in the LG, 18 February 1917 p1353.
On 16 Nov 1917 he was transferred to the RAF and employed on aircraft production, leading to his appointment as Assistant Controller, National Aircraft Factories with rank Act Lt Col on 8 October 1918. According to his SA Record of Service form he was back in Johannesburg in November 1919 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
During his war-time service Henry Templer was actively involved at top level with two new means of transportation in warfare: Mechanical Traction (1900) and Aircraft (1918).
The two Templers that are mentioned are Col James Lethbridge Brooke Templer (of balloon fame) and Henry Lethbridge Templer, who are first cousins. H.L.T. was a mining engineer who I believe was based in South Africa at the time of the Boer War and was probably a civilian who was co-opted into the army to assist J.L.B.T., both of whom had a great interest in steam traction.
I can recommend a book called 'Steam Traction in the Royal Engineers' by Col J Nowers ISBN 0-948305-07-X, which provides very interesting information regarding J.L.B.T. and steam traction during the Boer War. It doesn't seem to mention H.L.T.
Henk - Please tell me more about the Templer Group that you mention as I am interested in any Templer family history. JGB - Again I would be very interested in knowing more about photo album. It could be possible that H.L.T. did own the photo album as he joined the army in 1915 and rose to the rank of Colonel before retiring from the RAF in 1918. It is also possible that somebody was in error and it belonged to Col J.L.B.T. and was designated wrongly. I would love to know more.